Saturday, February 22, 2014

Checking In

I'm eyebrow-deep in revision, which might be my favorite part of writing. The clay is on the wheel, and everything feels a bit less like I'm running a marathon. (Note: I've never run a marathon, but I have run a 5K. It's practically the same thing, right? Who's with me? We can discuss it over donuts!) I'm still running now, but it's different--less of a sprint since I'm moving more carefully. Decisions need to be made, and I can no longer say I'm in the sh**ty first draft. I'm adding, rearranging, cutting.

I came across an excellent post on revision by Randy Powell. It's from 2009, but that's okay. Good writing posts, much like Twinkies, don't have a shelf life. I suggest you check it out if you're revising, or read and bookmark it, if you're not.

Have fun, bloggy friends who are in NYC right now for the SCBWI Winter Conference! I'm missing this one, but I'm all signed up for the SCBWI-Western Washington conference in April. Yee-haw!

How about you? What part of the writing process are you in right now?

Here's Thistle, sleeping with his mouth open. All of this talk about running has exhausted him.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

TURKEY TOT = Good News x 2

I love being able to share my friends' good news. Love. This post is extra fun because my news about one book, TURKEY TOT, involves good news for two friends. How cool is that?! TURKEY TOT was written by George Shannon and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann.

TURKEY TOT (Holiday House)
George is a dear friend, and he kindly granted me an interview a couple years ago that you can read here. Jennifer is also a close friend, and she's one of my critique partners. This is her first published book, and the fact that George is the author makes it extra special!

Jen has more excitement on the horizon. She has another book coming out in the spring of 2014. TWO SPECKLED EGGS, a picture book written and illustrated by Jennifer, will be published by Candlewick Press. 
The launch party for TURKEY TOT was held at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island last Sunday. Of course Margaret Nevinski, our other amazing critique partner and buddy, attended as well, and we had such a great time!
I love getting a book autographed by the author and illustrator even if I don't know either one. Knowing one of them is special. Knowing both? Special x 2!


(Don't you love how serious George looks for a guy who's wearing a turkey on his head?)

TURKEY TOT is a darling picture book. I bought one copy for myself and one for a special group of kiddos I know. George was the first person to teach me about the importance of rhythm in prose, and TURKEY TOT flows beautifully and has oodles of heart. Jen's illustrations are delightful, and they match George's words, being full of warmth and sweetness.

Since I'm not exactly unbiased, you might think my opinion has been tainted by friend-love. Check out what others are saying about TURKEY TOT:

Kirkus Review:

A determined turkey gets the sweet, juicy, high-hanging berries.

Turkey Tot is wandering about the bucolic farmstead--the reader winningly transported there via Mann's easy-handed, dark-lined, watercolor-washed artwork--where he lives with his friends Chick, Pig and Hen, in search of something to eat. Blackberries beckon, but they are too high to reach. So Turkey Tot looks about for some way to access the berries. His friends think all of his ideas are cockamamie--and repeatedly so in Shannon's polyphonic refrain: "You're talking silly talk." "We can't reach the berries, and that is that." "He's been different since the day he hatched." They decide to take a nap by the pond. But Turkey Tot will not be discouraged. Perhaps his first few ideas are a little off note--one has him finding a ball of string to which, he figures, he will tie a balloon and float Pig up to berryland--but he finally manages to wire all his different schemes together and snag the berries. Then he shares them with his uninspired comrades, which is more than the Little Red Hen would have done. Good for Turkey Tot: freethinking, resolved, generous.

Let's hope that when November rolls around, Turkey Tot has become the farm's mascot, not its dinner.

School Library Journal:

Turkey Tot thinks outside the box. He's hopeful, imaginative, and persistent, refusing to let his Debbie Downer friends in the farmyard discourage him. He's determined to retrieve juicy blackberries that hang just out of reach, but he needs a little help to implement the plans he makes to get within range. His enthusiastic schemes include floating up to the berries via a bunch of balloons and being flung at them from a teeter-totter. Naysayers Pig, Hen, and Chick tell him no way, no how. No matter, because Turkey Tot pulls together materials to make a pair of stilts from tin cans, and he fills a basket with the plump berries on his own. Now, his detractors sing a different tune. Hen's observation that Turkey Tot has been "different since the day he hatched" is no longer a criticism but a compliment. Shannon's writing is simple, clean, and cheerful, and his message of stick-to-itiveness is delivered perfectly. He also incorporates refrains that kids will have fun repeating during storytimes. Mann's illustrations, a blend of watercolor, pencil, and digital collage, pop against ample white space, and the four characters are depicted in wonderfully silly and endearing style. This picture book, like its protagonist, is a bona fide winner.
-Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

Way to go, Jen and George!

I feel so inspired when I see people working hard at this dream and then having the dream realized. It's huge! Congrats to my published friends and colleagues who are on their way, and an equally heartfelt congratulations to my not-yet-published friends and colleagues who, like Turkey Tot, are sticking with it! It's a journey.

Keep reaching for the stars, my friends.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Feeding the Fire

Today I'm off to a workshop, "Dynamics of Character," which will be led by agent Jill Grinberg of Jill Grinberg Literary Management. I'm so excited! Workshops always tend to juice up my writing heart. I've been working hard on my novel, and a workshop on character will give me an extra boost! Plus I'll get to see my SCBWI-WWA writing buddies!

This week I also have critique group. Checking in with crit partners Margaret Nevinski and Jennifer Mann is always motivating. Their feedback, support, and wisdom are priceless to me--and the snackage at meetings isn't so bad, either. But the good food is just a perk! I swear!

How about you? What keeps you inspired?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dav Pilkey!

I met him! I met him! I met him!

Note the Captain Underpants Hyno-Ring. :) So much fun!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Getting the Words on Paper

I plan to finish the first draft of my current project by the end of summer.

There. I said it. That makes it extra official, doesn't it?

This project has me super excited. But that first draft? It can be scary. Perfect example: I went to bed Friday feeling unsatisfied with the words I'd written that day, feeling more than my share of self-doubt. Tonight, on the other hand, I'm excited! I have new, fun ideas for the next scenes I'm writing, and things are starting to tie together--big picture things. You know that clarity that surfaces now and then when you just stick with it? I'm dipping into it now. Oo-la-la!

Of course, I have no idea how I'll be feeling two or three days from now. Writing a novel means getting stuck and unstuck more times than I can count, questioning myself, judging myself, encouraging myself. To me, it can mean feeling smart one day and like a poseur the next.

A couple years ago, Jesse Joshua Watson was on a panel at the SCBWI Western Washington conference, and he said (regarding our projects), "All we can do is our best at the time."

So simple, right? Yet I've been reminding myself of his words almost every day this summer because they give me strength or courage or whatever it is that helps me get the words down. Trying to write perfectly leaves me paralyzed. But I can do my best. And doing my best long enough can lead to something that makes me proud.

If you haven't been to Jesse Joshua Watson's blog, check out this post, The Problem in the Process. I love it. It's beautiful and true.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Time is such an issue, isn't it? Writing a novel around family, work, friends, and everything else requires serious commitment. This is true whether we're polishing our best work or pushing through the sh**ty first draft.

Just ask Brad. When we were dating, he and I had this same discussion about balancing creative pursuits with family and jobs that pay the rent.

What? Brad Pitt and I never dated? And he has no idea who I am? The Brad in this picture might even be made of wax?

Details-schmetails. :)

My point is, this is not a new problem for novelists (or actors, I assume).

Whether I have a lot of time or very little, I try different approaches. Sometimes I find I'm most productive and happiest when I require a certain amount of words per day. That's how I wrote most of the first draft of my last completed novel. Sometimes I work better with a schedule based on time. This spring I was crazy-busy, and x amount of time per day worked best for me. I find time can be saved either way if I work on my manuscript almost every day because the story stays alive in me, and I don't waste time on re-entry.

How are you most productive?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Dozen Random Tips

Hellooo! Let me blow the dust off my blog. It has been a while, bloggy friends. Sometimes life gets in the way, doesn't it?

I recently put up a post I yanked down the next day because it felt too small after a long absence. I'd planned to put up a series of posts that were tips, random things I've learned along the way. Then I thought maybe it would be better if I made a list of a few things I feel are worth sharing. You guys can add to it! (The post I pulled down was about conference notes, so I'll start with that one.)


Dawn's List of Random Tips

1. Reread your conference notes every now and then. Whenever I reread the notes I've taken at conferences or in writing classes, it brings back gems I've forgotten. Also, the information sometimes hits me at another level if I read them later, as a more experienced writer.

We writers tend to spend lots of money going to conferences in order to hear the wisdom of successful people in the industry. Doesn't it make sense to reread their tips the way we reread craft books?

2. When I was working on my first YA manuscript (2004? 2005?), I was having trouble going deep enough in third person. I couldn't get my protagonist's heart and mind onto the pages the way I'd hoped. I decided to try first person. It worked! Soon, however, I realized it was a story I felt would be best in third person.

I rewrote my work-in-progress, switching back to third person. It was much better this time. I now had the depth I'd gained in first person. I ended up finishing the story in first, knowing I'd eventually switch it to third.

So... If you're wanting more depth and your story is in third person, try playing with it in first--even if you feel it should be in third. It's also an excellent writing exercise. It could even be something to try on just a scene or two--or a chapter or two. You'll probably get the hang of it faster than I did!

3. Create an agent spreadsheet. Whether you're querying now or you're on page six of your first draft, I suggest gathering information about as many agents as you can. You won't query them all, obviously, but you need to research many in order to figure out who might be a good fit for you. At the very least, write down the names of the agents or agencies you come across so you have a place to start when you're ready to research.

Note: Literary Rambles is an amazing site. So is Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog.

4. Don't take rejections personally. Seriously. It's business.

5. Join a critique group. Who doesn't want someone in their corner who will give honest feedback to help them improve?!

There are all different types of critique groups: online, in person, groups that meet weekly, groups that meet monthly, groups that share chapters as manuscripts are written, groups that only share completed manuscripts--so many types! Find what works best for you as a professional writer. Don't go because the treats are fabulous and the feedback is always, "I love it!" (Though awesome snackage is a benny. Tee-hee.)

Some people prefer beta readers to an actual group that meets regularly. There is no right or wrong here, people. Do what works for you.

6. If you write for children or teens, join SCBWI. Just do it. You'll be glad you did.

7. Find joy in your writing. If you're seeking traditional publication, there are no guarantees. You may find success in a matter of months, years, or decades. Or not at all. So find the joy. Hold onto what made you want to be a writer in the first place. It most likely wasn't the money or Ryan Gosling.

Hmm...Ryan Gosling.

Where were we?

Oh, yeah...

8. Don't forget to back up your work.

9. Read author/ex-literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog.

10. If you have a manuscript consultation, check your ego at the door. Then listen and write down everything you hear, whether you agree with it at that moment or not.

11. Everyone has lame writing days, the ones when the words won't come and everything you write sucks. So... When you have a lame writing day, forgive yourself fast. Otherwise, you'll have two lame writing days.

12. If we wait until we're published to celebrate, what a dull journey it will be. Celebrate your successes, large and small.

What tips would you share with new and/or experienced writers? Please tell me in the comments!